I do love me a good ghost story, but I also do love me a coherent, non convoluted ghost story and the movie Ghost Story is full of unnecessary filler, padding out the time to an exhausting 110 minutes, whilst not a lot of scariness happens. Is it a bad movie? Not really, as the acting is wonderful, featuring plenty of known faces and Alice Krige is phenomenal (and looks good naked), the practical FX by Dick Smith are fantastic and the scares, when they do happen, work. However, it’s a bunch of other stuff that weighs the movie down, so let’s continue with this review and see what exactly is the issue with Ghost Story…
SUBTITLES: English REGION: A RATING: R PRODUCTION DATE: 1981 RELEASE DATE: Nov 24, 2015
Four of Hollywood’s most distinguished statesmen – Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and John Houseman – join forces against a paranormal nemesis in Ghost Story, based on the terrifying novel by best-selling author Peter Straub.
In a peaceful New England town, the four lifelong friends who make up the Chowder Society come together each week to regale each other with tales of terror. But when one of the elderly gentlemen experiences a family tragedy, it becomes apparent that a buried secret from their youth has arisen to remind them of the sins of their past. Soon, they will learn they have never been forgiven… and a supernatural vengeance awaits them all. Craig Wasson, Patricia Neal, and Alice Krige also star in this chilling and atmospheric telling of one of horror’s greatest stories.
Ghost Story is a head scratcher for me, as I like the movie, but I also don’t like it. I watch it, enjoying scenes here and there, especially whenever Alice Krige is on screen, but then we get subjected to scenes with escaped asylum patients spouting about immortality, which add nothing to the plot. They say these crazies are working for the ghost, but why and how is never explained.
Things start off promising, following a group of older men who love to tell each other ghost stories. The men are also having bad nightmares and being haunted by something they did in the past. Meanwhile, one of the older men’s son dies mysteriously (warning! man junk alert) and the other son (both son’s are played by A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors actor Craig Wasson) comes home to the funeral. Finally, after several minutes of more random scenes, he finally tells the men his “ghost story” about a woman he met and how he thinks she is the same woman who is haunting these men.
I feel like a bunch of stuff could have been trimmed at the beginning to get to the more important stuff, like the flashbacks where Don explains how he met Alma (Krige) (I don’t want to ruin much of the plot, but I think you can guess that Alma is not exactly who you think she is.) Once his story is over, we get some more exposition about what really happened to the older group of gentlemen several years ago and this mysterious woman haunting them, named Eva (also played by Alice Krige). All of these flashbacks are straight forward and make perfect sense, but it’s the extra stuff (random bad guys who are insane are not needed in this type of movie) that is just so damn boring and unnecessary (can you tell I hated the subplot about the crazies?). The entire plot for this movie could have easily been told in 80 minutes or so.
Now, with all that I’ve said, I do want to mention that I’ve never read the book written by Peter Straub, in which this movie is based on. I’ve been hearing that the movie misrepresents the character of Eva/Alma and who or what she really is and from what I’ve heard, I wish the movie would’ve went the route of the book. I also can’t tell you if all the random scenes that seemed like filler are present in the book as well, but if they are, I hope they make more sense on page than they do on screen.
Wow, talk about feature loaded with this new Blu-ray release from Scream Factory. I’m talking on average, 30 minutes a piece interviews with actors and people behind the scenes. All of them are informative and highly enjoyable, especially if you love the movie. (For anyone out there wondering, yes they do talk about that infamous ghost makeup that never made it into the movie, but was featured in all the promotional material for it.) This release might not be labelled as a collector’s edition, but damn is it ever close to being one.
Dick Smith’s unused ghost design.
It isn’t only the features that are superb, as the audio and video are both top of the line. Hardly any faults with either, with only a bit of picture softness at the beginning being the biggest thing I noticed; but you’ll really notice the difference in the video when you watch the vintage trailer and see how bad it looked at one time. This was one movie that was always hard to find in good quality, so it’s great to finally see it treated so well.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
Ghost Story Genesis (Roughly 40 min)
Ghost Story Development (Roughly 30 min)
Alice Krige: Being Alma and Eva (Roughly 30 min)
Albert Whitlock Visual Effects with Bill Taylor (Roughly 30 min)
Photo Gallery (A very long 8 min)
Audio Commentary by Director John C. Irvin
The other makeup is still pretty awesome though.
Even though I don’t love Ghost Story, I’d still recommend it to anyone that is interested in checking it out. I do like the movie, but it’s certainly a little long in the tooth run time wise and some story beats are completely out there and not needed. However, even with that all said, the Blu-ray from Scream Factory is wonderful and I think this is a must buy for any fan.